5th Jun 2023

France blocks start of Turkey eurozone talks

  • France is blocking Turkey on its path to the EU (Photo: European Commission)

Despite earlier plans by the German EU presidency to open talks on three EU integration areas with Turkey by the end of June, European diplomats have given the red light to talks with Ankara on the eurozone rules chapter, following opposition from France.

Just days before wrapping up its six-month term at the EU's chair, Germany will on Tuesday (25 June) preside over a meeting with representatives of both Turkey and Croatia to formally launch talks on two and six negotiating chapters, respectively, out of 35 areas.

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The European Commission earlier presented its reports on three Turkey chapters - statistics, financial control and economic and monetary union - but the euro package was dropped from the agenda of the diplomats' meeting on Monday.

"The French delegation asked for more time to study the EU's position," one EU diplomat said, adding that Paris generally takes more time for detailed evaluation of enlargement reports.

"Even its approval of the two other Turkey chapters took longer than expected and that's why the mandate for German presidency to launch talks on them could only be agreed at a special meeting, just a day before the gathering with Turkish representatives."

The European Commission refused to comment on the issue, washing its hands of responsibility for the delay by claiming it had tabled necessary documents and that it is now up to member states and the presidency country to decide on the timetable.

The move by France has been expected following the new French president Nicolas Sarkozy's open remarks about the need to change the official mandate of negotiations with Turkey and its reference to their ultimate goal - from EU membership to a "privileged partnership" with the union, an idea Turkey strongly rejects.

During his visit to Brussels late last month, Mr Sarkozy confirmed that his country was ready to re-open the issue once the EU agrees on the new treaty to follow the disputed constitution, a feat which the bloc's leaders managed over the weekend.

Back in May, he suggested the union should have a debate on its final borders and sum up its analysis at the December EU summit, while stressing, "I don't think that Turkey has a place in the Union."

Last December, the EU cut off talks with Ankara on eight areas directly connected with the bloc's customs union due to its reluctance to open ports and airspace to Cypriot ships and planes.

New EU treaty sparks question marks

Unlike Turkey, Croatia is fast ticking off the areas covered by EU legislation, with six more chapters to be added on Tuesday to the other six already launched.

Zagreb aims to see 20 chapters opened by the end of this year and the whole process completed in early 2009 at the latest.

But last week's deal by EU leaders on the new treaty to modify the bloc's rules and procedures has sparked some question marks over future enlargements.

While both the European Commission and German chancellor Angela Merkel insisted the new treaty - set to be finalised by the Intergovernmental conference to be convened on 23 July - would make the bloc's expansion possible, it is not clear how enlargement will be affected by the provisions on the EU voting system.

Due to Polish pressure, the bloc agreed to keep the current Nice Treaty system in place effectively until 2017, without clarifying how the number of votes for EU newcomers would be calculated.

But the European Commission's spokesman on Monday (24 June) played down such concerns, arguing that it will be possible to adapt the Nice mechanism for future entrants.

"Once you have opted for certain mechanisms it is a question of their adaptation. But when will these questions arise will depend on the negotiations [with the concrete countries]," he added.

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